View Full Version : Anything else I need….

Bruce Page
03-14-2009, 12:31 PM
to get started on learning how to hand cut dovetails?

This is the list that I’ve put together so far. Am I missing anything?

Blue Spruce Bench chisels

Rob Cosman’s Hand-Cut Dovetails, DVD

Rob Cosman’s Advanced Hand-Cut Dovetails, DVD

Rob Cosman’s Hand-Cut Dovetails: Shop Copy, Book

Lie-Nielsen Dovetail Saw & Leather Case

Lee Valley Micro-Adjust marking gauge

Lee Valley 1:6 & 1:8 Dovetail Markers

Rob Cosman’s Fretsaw

I know I could get by with lesser quality tools but I’m a “cry once” kind of guy.

Thanks for any wisdom y’all can offer.

Wilbur Pan
03-14-2009, 1:13 PM
Am I missing anything?

Scrap wood and time to practice. ;)

You've got a good list of tools there. It's not what I use, but there are many paths to the same end.

The only thing I would add is that a pair of skew chisels are nice if you are making half-blind dovetails, but not completely necessary.

Rick Erickson
03-14-2009, 1:19 PM
I would substitute the following:

I would go with the Tite-Mark guage instead of the Lee Valley. It is more expensive but the quality is heads-and-tails above the LV. If you still want the Lee Valley I will sell you mine (only used a few times) foe 25% less than online.

I would go with Lie-Nielsen's dovetail marker (or Cosmans - available on his website). Watching Rob's videos you will see he prefers the 1:7 over everything else - I happen to agree. To me it is more visually appealing)

John Keeton
03-14-2009, 1:23 PM
Bruce, I have the BS dovetail chisels and love them. I use another set of bench chisels for heavy chopping, but they will not get in the corners. If the BS bench chisels will clear the slope of the pin sockets on narrow pins, then they may be fine. Maybe Mark Singer can comment as he just received his set. I would get a fishtail chisel - I made a couple and they really come in handy. The BS look sweet!!

I would (and did!) buy the Cosman trilogy with the shop book - not much difference in price and the DVD on mastering the saw is very good and nearly a prerequisite to cutting dovetails in my limited experience.

Couple sets of dividers to mark off the dovetails if you want to use that method.

Marking knife of some sort - probably already have that.

One very important thing is missing from your list - a 5 gallon bucket of patience:D Not expensive, but absolutely required.

Just saw Rick's post and edited to say I agree on both counts. I have the LV gauge and while it is good, I believe the Tite-Mark to be of much better quality. If money is no object, then get the LN marker - again, I have the LV 1:8 and like it, but the LN would probably do better. Not real set on either side of that issue.

Rick Erickson
03-14-2009, 1:37 PM
Good points John. I would say watch the DVDs and everything will be a lot clearer on what you need. I would start there.

Eric Brown
03-14-2009, 1:39 PM

Glen-Drake makes th Tite Mark gages but also has another way of making dovetails that involves kerf starters, feeler gages, and other tools. Get his video and watch. It is a fast accurate way to cut dovetails.


David Keller NC
03-14-2009, 2:23 PM
"I would go with the Tite-Mark guage instead of the Lee Valley. It is more expensive but the quality is heads-and-tails above the LV."

I will echo this. The Glenn-Drake tool is very much worth the money. Presumably, hand-cut dovetails will be followed by hand-cut mortises, and you can buy really nice set of fixed mortise blades for the G-D tool that very much increases its versatility.

I very much like the Lee-Valley dovetail markers. They're inexpensive so I don't sweat dropping them on the floor, and my personal opinion is that each marker should only have one slope on them. Otherwise, there's a good possibility that confusion will occur and you'll wind up with 1:6 on one side of the tail and 1:8 on the other. It won't affect the strength of the joint, but it'll dang sure look funny.

Finally - the marking knife in hand-cut dovetails is critically important, at least if you want to cut the ultra-thin tails seen on high-end 18th century furniture. It has to be thin. Blues Spruce is my preference, but I think Dave Anderson of Chester makes similar ones, as does Czech edge tools. You can also sharpen a thin penknife to remove the double-sided bevel - I've seen that solution work very well.

Rick Erickson
03-14-2009, 2:30 PM
I agree David. The knife is critical. This is usually where my mistakes come into play and I have a good one (Blue Spruce). Cosman is working on a knife (and a saw).

Bruce Page
03-14-2009, 2:39 PM
Thanks guys, I’m glad I asked the question.

John, the BS dovetail chisels make more sense, particularly sense I already have a set of LV bench chisels. Do you know if anyone sells the trilogy as a set? (trying to save as much $ as I can)

I already have the BS marking knife, and several dividers from my machinist days.

I’ll go with the LN dovetail marker & Tite-Mark, I’ll probably save a few bucks on shipping if most of this comes from Lie-Nielsen. Maybe even get a free calendar next year..:rolleyes:

Bruce Page
03-14-2009, 3:07 PM
Is there any reason to get the 6pc BS Dovetail chisel set (.125 to .750) over the 4pc set? (.125 to .500)

I could get the 4pc set and a pair of .375 skew chisels and still get to sleep tonight.

Mark Singer
03-14-2009, 3:19 PM
Is there any reason to get the 6pc BS Dovetail chisel set (.125 to .750) over the 4pc set? (.125 to .500)

I could get the 4pc set and a pair of .375 skew chisels and still get to sleep tonight.

Probably not! Just lay the chisel in the scribe line carefully. I don't use a fret saw, I chop them and that is the better way to start learning IMHO. The marker you can make. You may perfer a japanese saw? Try the LN first.

Ben Rafael
03-14-2009, 3:22 PM
I agree with Mark. You may prefer a japanese saw. They are far less expensive too.
I cut the waste away on my bandsaw, it's quick; and clean up with chisels.

John Keeton
03-14-2009, 5:07 PM
Bruce, on the dovetail chisels, I got the 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4. The 1/8 is very useful in cleaning out the pin sockets in narrow dovetails. When I do real narrow pins using 1:8, the bottom of the socket is just about 1/4" and that is where the 1/8 really helps. I use the 3/4 and 1/2, but not so much with the 1/4.

Personally, I don't know how one would trim the pin socket waste with a bandsaw as there is just over a kerf of opening, but I guess it may work. The fret saw works fine. On through dovetails, cutting the waste on the tail sockets could be done on a bandsaw. As Mark says, chopping that waste is a good way to learn, but the fret saw works quickly and to me is preferable.

I would get the fishtail set before I got skews - but, that is my personal preference. I have a skew chisel and don't use it on the dovetails, but I use the fishtails I made every time with halfblinds. They work, but I SURE WOULD LOVE to have the BS fishtails. I keep waiting for Mark to send me the one that got in his order by mistake:rolleyes:

Here is a link to the "Dovetail Degree" set http://www.craftsmanstudio.com/html_p/AU01.htm

Can't speak to the saw - I have the Veritas and since I am new to this dovetail thing, I have never owned anything else.

Bruce Page
03-14-2009, 7:43 PM
Thanks for the info John. Your link will save me $15, and with free shipping too!
I think I will get the .375 fishtail with the savings! :)

Rick Erickson
03-14-2009, 9:31 PM
Bruce, the BS fishtails are very nice. I have two of them. Keep in mind though you don't need those until you start with the half-blind dovetails. You don't really need them at all but they sure are convenient and added bling!

Bruce Page
03-14-2009, 11:20 PM
Rick, I got everything ordered tonight including a pair of the BS Fishtails.
Now all I have to do is learn some of that patience that everyone been talking about..:rolleyes:

Blue Spruce Dovetail chisels 4pc set .125 to .500
Blue Spruce Skew Chisels, .250 (pair)
Blue Spruce Fishtail Chisels .375 & .500 (pair)

Rob Cosman's Hand-cut Dovetails DVD,
Advanced Hand-cut Dovetails DVD,
Rob Cosman's Mastering the Dovetail Saw DVD,
Rob Cosman’s Hand-Cut Dovetails: Shop Copy, Book

Lie-Nielsen Dovetail Saw & Leather Case
Tite-Mark marking gauge
Lie-Nielsen Dovetail Marker

Rob Cosman’s Fretsaw

John Keeton
03-15-2009, 8:22 AM
Bruce, now I am envious! All of this was fun and games until you ordered the BS fishtails, skews and upgrades of every tool I own!:D

Here is one element of all of this you may not have considered. Sometimes it is good to have one inferior tool on which the blame can be based for the screwups! With what you have ordered - ain't no place to put the blame - YOU are carrying the ball on this play;)

On a serious note, congratulations on some great tools - you will really enjoy this ride! Pics of the first dovetails are encouraged and nearly mandatory after this thread...

Rick Erickson
03-15-2009, 11:16 AM
Bruce, this is a superb start. I've got everything you listed here except I have LN bevel chisels in stead of BS. I'm sure the BS are excellent chisels (I own others by him).

Before you start cutting my suggestions would be as follows:

1. Watch the Cosman videos (several times). Start with the dovetail saw video. Then go to the through dovetail video. Finally, just for grins watch the advanced video. You won't be doing those anytime soon but hey, it is fun to watch.

2. Practice cutting a straight line. I know it will be tempting to jump right in trying to cut through dovetails. This will only discourage you. Practice what Cosman teaches as step one. Make a few hundred vertical cuts so you can get your grip, stance and muscle memory established. It will also help you learn how to 'start' the saw. A brand new saw is somewhat 'grabby' on the wood so this will allow you to 'break it in' before you attempt your dovetails. This won't take as long as you think.

3. Start with through dovetails. They are a lot easier than the half-blind. I milled up several pieces of wood about 3" wide x 10" long of scrap mahogany and poplar I had around the shop. Cut your tails in the poplar (or other secondary wood) and your pins in the mahogany (or primary - harder wood). After I finished the joint and it had time for the glue to dry (and it was planed down, etc.) I would take it to my table saw and cut it off just past the joint. That way I can reuse the remaining wood for several other attempts. I numbered each one I did so I could (hopefully) see some quality progression. I would say when I hit #10 I had a pretty respectable joint. Numbers 1, 2, 3 - ugh!!!!!

4. Don't get discouraged. If you follow Rob's advice and don't skip steps you will be cranking out some nice dovetails in a short amount of time. They are the most enjoyable time in my shop :)

I look forward to seeing some pictures of your progression.

David Keller NC
03-15-2009, 12:46 PM
I will second Rick's comment about choice of wood for practice. While it might hurt a little to use mahogany for what will become firewood, it's well worth it when starting out. There's a couple of reasons - a cheaper hard wood for the pins is maple, but it's really hard, which makes accurate sawing and paring difficult. This results from a truism in sawing/chiseling - the more strokes required, the farther off you're line you're likely to wind up. Mahogany is a happy medium between hard and strong enough to compress the softer tail-board, and not so hard that it's difficult to saw/chisel.

For the soft wood, I highly recommend poplar or (better) eastern white pine. Both woods saw and chisel easily; the eastern white pine will compress slightly better and results in a prettier joint that isn't cut precisely to the line. What I would avoid as a tail board wood is southern yellow pine or cypress. Both have very hard latewood and soft early wood, and that makes it very difficult to pare with a chisel accurately.

Bruce Page
03-15-2009, 1:22 PM
Thanks for all the great information everyone. I’m sure I’ll be coming back to this thread along with Mark Singer’s excellent Hounds Tooth Dovetail Tutorial many times.

John, I’ll be sure to post pics when I get everything in from the four different sources. Cosman’s website only took Paypal for payment. My experience with Paypal only sites are hit & miss on their efficiency, I guess I’ll find out…

I’ll have to get some mahogany to practice on, I have lots of QSWO, some cherry, Koa, and maple.

BTW, you guys were exceptional at helping me put a nice dent in my mad-money account! :eek::)

Thanks again!

John Keeton
03-15-2009, 2:13 PM
While it might hurt a little to use mahogany for what will become firewood......Whoa!! Like Rick, I numbered mine, and the first dozen are on permanent display in a corner of my shop! I may burn pieces of screwed up furniture parts - but never my first batch of dovetails:D

And, Bruce, it was fun helping you spend YOUR money!

Bill Stoffels
03-15-2009, 3:16 PM
Bruce if you would keep posting on your progress and findings you come across. there beneficial to all who read these posts. I will be doing the same as you just got done paying for my LN planes "4" of them.

Bruce Page
03-15-2009, 3:47 PM
Will do Bill, I'm sure the first attempts won't be pretty but I don't mind getting laughed at.:D
It'll probably take 3-4 weeks to get the chisels in from Blue Spruce.

Bill Stoffels
03-15-2009, 3:48 PM
did you purchase the progressive pitch or the standard dovetail saw?

Bruce Page
03-15-2009, 3:54 PM
did you purchase the progressive pitch or the standard dovetail saw?
I ordered the standard one. I understand the difference between the two as far as tooth pitch, I just didn't see why it would make much difference on how they would actually perform.

I hope I didn't screw up...

Jacob Mac
03-15-2009, 4:01 PM
I, too, would like to watch your progress. I am going to finish up my current project, and then make an outfeed table and a workbench. But learning to cut DT by hand is next on the list after that:) So I am interested in your thoughts and experiences as you learn to cut DT.

gary Zimmel
03-15-2009, 4:12 PM

Looks like you are going to have excellent tools for those dovetails.
Only thing I would do a little different is order that second tite mark.
Having two comes in real handy when doing multiple corners.
For the saw I have a LN regular and the progressive but seem always to go to the regular one.
I think it is what you get used to.

Keep us up to date with your progress.

My first ones are still in my shop. Nice little reminder of where it all started.